President Obama’s Jobs Bill Would Prohibit Discrimination Against Unemployed

For the past couple of weeks, President Obama has been heavily promoting his jobs bill. Among other things, the bill would extend — and increase — the current cut in payroll taxes. Rather than paying 6.2% toward Social Security, employees currently pay 4.2%. The jobs bill would cut this further, to 3.1%. It would also cut the employer’s matching contribution to the same percentage. (This part is new; currently, only employees are enjoying a tax cut.)

Other employment related provisions include an extension of the additional unemployment benefits currently available to the long-term unemployed, through January 2012. The bill would also increase tax breaks for employers who hire certain disabled veterans, and require employees who earn more than $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (married) to pay income tax on their employer-provided health insurance benefits.

Perhaps the most interesting provision would prohibit discrimination against the unemployed. This prohibition would apply to the same employers covered by Title VII, including private employers with at least 15 employees. An employer who posted a job advertisement excluding the unemployed or refused to hire applicants because they are unemployed would violate the law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have enforcement responsibilities, and applicants whose rights were violated would be entitled to the following remedies:

  • an injunction prohibiting the employer from continuing its discriminatory practice
  • reimbursement of costs caused by the illegal practice
  • attorney fees, and
  • liquidated damages of up to $1,000 per day that the violation continued.

The bill would also prohibit retaliation against those who oppose practices made illegal by, or assert their rights under, the law. You can read the text of this provision here, at the President’s website.